Poke the Boredom Bubble & Enrich Them

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Garima Singhal
We all appreciate our own space. But there is a fine line between enjoying your own company and being lonely! Find more about how you can poke the boredom bubble from your cat’s life with these creative ways and keep them happy, healthy, and engaged.
 
One of the things that many people find appealing about cats is that they can be left in their own company for long hours. Even with the convenience of litter box and an endless supply of food, cats when left alone for long stretches of time, can suffer from loneliness, boredom, and even separation anxiety. A bored cat can turn into a destructive cat, which can result in anxious behaviour and may even cause a cat to attack her pet parent.
 
Does this mean the solution is to allow your cat to go outdoors for stimulation and entertainment? Certainly not! The outdoor environment is filled with stimulation but it’s also filled with danger and uncertainty. Outdoor cats typically have shorter life spans and are vulnerable to predators, disease, accidents, parasites, and as unthinkable as it may be, even human cruelty. It is my recommendation that cats should be kept indoors, but when you do that, and as responsible pet parents you have the responsibility to ensure the indoor environment provides the enrichment needed to keep your cat mentally active and healthy.
 
A bored car is a sad cat

  • Clawing
  •  Bullying
  •  Over-grooming, to the point of creating bald patches
  •  Over-eating
  •  Lack of appetite
  •  Eliminating in the wrong places
  •  Clinginess
  •  Sleeping more than usual
  •  Depression
    If your cat is displaying any or all of the above behaviours, or any other change from her normal behaviours, the first step is to visit the veterinarian to rule out any other health related issues or underlying medical conditions. Once that has been ruled out, one can assume that the problem is behavioural and must be dealt with in a delicate manner. If there doesn’t turn out to be medical issues behind their abnormal behaviour, your cat will benefit from boredom busters and environmental enrichment.

 
Entertainment & Enrichment together
Let those strong feline traits shine with puzzle feeder. These can be obtained from any pet store or you can buy them online. Food dispensing toys are an easy way to provide added environmental enrichment. Working for food is a concept that’s natural for cats but in most households, food is just piled high in the food bowl so the cat doesn’t really get the opportunity to seek out her prey. As hunters, cats enjoy the chance to search for prey, stalk, pounce and enjoy the reward. The puzzle feeder not only provides them opportunities for all of these, but also encourages your pet to eat more slowly.
 
Enjoy play time with Treasure Hunts
Hide a few treats around the house and let your cat find them. Hide them in places that your cat typically goes to and this will create opportunities for some treasure hunting. Don’t go overboard or you will end up with an overweight cat. Place just a few treats around the house so that the cat’s nose can do a little work and find those tiny but tasty rewards.
 
What greater gift than love and a scratch post for your cat?
A scratching post is a must in a cat household. If not for this, she is going to be scratching that expensive sofa or your bedpost. If you do have one, but your cat won’t use it, then it is time to reevaluate why it has failed. Most cats prefer sisal covered posts and not carpeted ones. Make sure the post is tall and sturdy so the cat can lean his whole weight against it and get a good scratch and stretch.
Place it where she likes to scratch. Some cats prefer horizontal scratching as opposed to vertical, so see what your pet likes and get a post accordingly. Scratching is an important part of enrichment in a cat’s life and don’t underestimate the value of have an appealing post available. It is used not only for nail conditioning but
also for stretching, marking and emotional release.
 
Toys making learning all the more fun
Set some time aside for interactive playtime with your kitty. Have toys for engaging playtime as well as solo playtime. Interactive toys are the ones you will use so you can engage in play sessions with your kitty. These are typically based on a fishing pole design. Cats left home alone all day particularly need interactive playtime. It should be at least twice daily for about 15 minutes each. Try to match the toy to your cat’s personality and play style.
 
Chillin’ like a boss – perches and window views adding to the fun
Cats love to climb and being on elevated locations as it gives them a sense of security. They also love the process of getting there by climbing or jumping. Create safe climbing options for your cat by having a sturdy cat tree. It might seem like an expense, but a well-made, sturdy tree will last your cat a lifetime. Make sure the perches are comfortable and large. U-shaped perches are best because they make the cat feel more secure. You can also install sturdy window perches or cat shelving, create cat walkways. Be creative; just make sure that everything is sturdy and safe.  The reason cats love climbing is because it affords them the view over everything. It is beneficial to create a window perch from where they can see what is going on outside. Place cat trees near windows for your cat’s viewing pleasure. Even a bed placed on a piece of furniture will do so your cat can watch the outdoor activity. Place a bird feeder outside to create more entertainment.
 
Soak up the sun and have fun ‘indoors’
Cats love to bask in the sun and if you have windows, let the shutters down. One more benefit of having perches or beds next to the windows is that the sun streaming in warms the cats and they get nice and toasty, just how they like it. If there are windows that allow for a long beam of sunlight to stream into the room, keep the curtains open so the cats can stretch out on the carpet or floor an enjoy a sun filled nap.
 
Bring in some outdoors
The outdoors is a great plethora of sights and smells that attracts your cat, but unfortunately, for her own safety, she cannot be left outside to her own devices. But you can bring a little of the outside into the safety of your own home. Bring in a few dried leaves for them to enjoy the lightness and crunch and they make appealing toys. Bird feathers found on the ground make similarly spectacular playtime instruments. For additional scratching fun, bring in a small log and let your cat scratch away. Clean up the scratched up bark and wood afterwards. Your kitty will thank you for it.
 
A hideout for comfort and cocoon
There might be an occurrence that is scary for your cat while you are gone. Thunder, lightening, construction noises, a car accident, sirens, even someone knocking on the door might scare your cat. Make sure your cat has places to hide instead of her having to duck under the bed. Set up a couple of covered beds, cat tunnels or even just open towel-lined boxes placed on their sides. If there is something frightening, your kitty can just run into one of these and feel secure. Also, boxes and bags are great for playtime and fun.
 
It’s good to stick to routines
Cats are creatures of habit. Losing a routine tends to cause a lot of anxiety in them. Don’t be inconsistent so that your cat never knows whether dinner is two hours late one day and four hours later the next day.
 
Festive feels with Catnip party
Set out a little dried catnip twice a week, or leave it loose on a paper plate or rub a couple of toys with the dried leaves and leave them lying around so that the kitty can enjoy a little catnip party. Although safe, don’t offer her more than once or twice a week, as cats can become immune to it.
 
Bring home a new pet and foster friendship
If your time, schedule and finances allow, consider adding another friend for your cat to your family. This can be a wonderful way to provide companionship and friendship. Introductions take time and finesse and if you have the time to devote to make a gradual and positive introduction, go for it. Adopt from a local shelter.
 
Carpe Diwem: Seize the day, but with your beloved cat
Make the most of your time together. You have had a long day, but so has your kitty that waited for you all day, so spend some time playing with her and grooming with her and generally having a positive interaction with her. Also, have a neighbour or a friend visit when you are not around to take care of your kitty. This way, loneliness won’t feel so long and she will get a little midday interaction. Just make sure that the person is trustworthy and someone your cat likes so that the experience of having someone in the home doesn’t
add anxiety.
(Garima Singhal is a behaviourist, neurobiologist, school teacher and a long-term pet parent.)